My journey into the world of classical composition has been a somewhat unconventional one. After studying classical piano performance under Daniel Herscovitch at the Sydney Conservatorium I have spent the last 12 years writing music and fiddling with synthesisers and electronic gadgets with my band The Jezabels. It is within this context that I approach my acoustic and orchestral writing.

Heather Shannon, Australian Chamber OrchestraHeather Shannon

Much of my work is developed from electronic ideas and adapted to an acoustic setting. As a classically trained pianist with synthesiser experience, I have often been forced to think outside the box in setting up electronic instruments for maximum expressivity. When using an electronic instrument, the lack of control over dynamic range can be restricting. However, a synthesiser’s programming capacity and its ability to incorporate microtones into its timbral setup allows for a broad scope of sound possibilities. By programming a melody into a synthesiser, one can blur the lines between melody and harmony, creating unusual register leaps and detuned tones. The breakdown of tonality inherent in many synthesisers leaves room for an element of unpredictability when developing musical ideas. For me, this is an interesting point of departure when writing for acoustic instruments and one that I have explored through my writing for Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Ricochet and Ricochet from a Distance are two pieces commissioned by the ACO Collective. Both were developed from music written to imitate the unnatural lilt and timbre of a synthesiser sequence. They are also inspired by the ACO Collective’s program centring around Haydn’s Symphony No 47 in G Major, “Palindrome”. Ricochet is the first piece I have written for wind ensemble and it is an exploration of the timbres of each instrument and how their different tonal qualities can be weaved together. The piece is melody driven, however the melody is strongly informed by the harmonic movement creating a quirky and somewhat manic melodic dissonance. Ricochet from a Distance is a representation of Ricochet as a distant echo. Music from Ricochet is reversed and elongated. Strings give the slow harmonic movement an ambient, swimming effect like an echo bouncing off a surface and rebounding to create a rich, reverberating sound.

I am very excited to be included in the ACO’s 2019 program. It is an honour to have such artistically innovative and renowned musicians play my music. This incredible opportunity has allowed me to continue to clarify my artistic practice.


The ACO Collective will give the world premiere of Heather Shannon’s Ricochet and Ricochet from a Distance at Mount Gambier on March 2, before touring to Hamilton, Melbourne, Bendigo and Wangaratta until March 9

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